Development of Gut Microbes and Gut Immunity Linked
The findings have implications for understanding the underpinnings of healthy growth and, potentially, the origins of various immune disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, food allergies, and malnourished children’s poor responses to oral vaccination.
Published May 25 in the journal Nature, the study, which has spawned many other CDI-funded research projects, included data collected from 40 healthy twin pairs living in the St. Louis metro area. It also included data from germ-free mice, so-called because they lack gut microbes of their own. These mice received transplants of gut microbes from two of the pairs of twins. The studies allowed the researchers to analyze the effects of age, genetics, diet and other environmental factors — such as whether the babies were born vaginally or by C-section — upon formation of the gut’s immune system and its microbial community, known as the microbiota.
“This study provided us with a way to measure how the gut microbiota and the immune system co-develop in healthy infants and children,” said senior author Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and director of Washington University’s Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology. “If we can understand how these two systems interact normally, we can begin to identify disruptions in these interactions during a critical period of development after birth, and how such disruptions may lead to disease. Ultimately, the goal is to devise ways to support healthy coordinated development of both systems.